Enduro is booming! There’s now so much choice on the market, and – if we’re to believe the marketing promises – these are serious capable do-it-all bikes. While that’s all very nice, can you buy a great bike for less than €4000? In this group test we find out.

So what does an enduro bike really have to do?

The answer is easy: everything you ask of it. All of the bikes in this test are competent climbers, with slight differences. However, point them downhill and the differences are vast! At one end of the spectrum there are overbuilt, slack, race-ready rigs, while at the other there are super-agile corner killers. The best enduro bike delivers the optimal mix, possessing confidence-inspiring characteristics that push you to test your limits and try new lines.

How important is an expensive spec?

How much does the spec influence how the bike rides? It’d be easy to just compare bikes based on their build specs, citing that Shimano XT is better than Deore, a SRAM X01 setup is better than having GX, and that an Eagle drivetrain is a dead cert for a test win. But hold on, results from this group test further confirm how a bike’s spec only tells half the story (if that!). Right now, components are so good across the board, even ‘cheap’ brakes are able to perform with power and modulation and a ‘budget’ groupset is still going to shift with precision and speed. Therefore, it’s time to broaden your gaze and take a look at the bigger picture: is the spec right for the context?
Of course, there are certain components that’ll be met with approving nods from your mates, but there are so many small details – like tire choice or a dropper post – that really impact the handling and enjoyment. This test fleet revealed some major differences – but it took a second look at the spec list to see exactly where the pros and cons were.

“Even seemingly minor differences can ruin a bike’s handling!“
That’s why value for money can’t be determined by a simple spreadsheet. It’s all about riding calculations: just how much does that bike make you grin on the trails? Which bike makes you the most stoked to ride that line again?

Travel is just a number

This test was confirmation of how little we can discern about a bike based purely on its amount of travel. Most of the bikes on test have between 150 and 170 mm of travel, but if we were going to categorize the test fleet solely on these figures then we’d have trail bikes, enduro bikes, and freeride bikes. What about when a bike with 150 mm of travel dishes out more stability and confidence on descents than one with 170 mm? This, guys, is a case of quality over quantity.

Enough talk about weight!

It’s like a bad record: “How much does your bike weigh?” While weight is ultimately a good measure of how suited the bike is to all-day rides and how it’ll grind its way uphill, there are other factors to consider – like the riding position, the efficiency of the suspension, and how the weight is distributed. This test fleet had an average weight of €13,9 k with.the lightest floating in at €13,34 and .he heaviest tipping the scales at 14.47 kg. A kilogram definitely isn’t something to be overlooked, but often the gram-saving approach is gained by using lightweight wheels or tires. So do lighter tires mean more fun? On climbs, yes, but not necessarily on descents.

Aluminium or carbon?

There are many preconceptions about carbon, but most aren’t true. Carbon is a major asset for manufacturers to build lighter, stiffer, and more stable bikes with more creativity in the frame’s design. So are carbon bikes automatically better? A controversial question – when carbon is misused, it can be too rigid and therefore gruelingly uncomfortable, and let’s not forget that higher price tag. With manufacturers meeting the demand for more affordable carbon bikes, there’s also a tendency to kit these bikes with below-par components.

Bike Price Weight Travel Wheelsize
Bergamont ENCORE 9.0 € 3,799 14.29 kg 170/165 mm 27,5″
Canyon Strive CF 7.0 Race € 3,799 13.42 kg 160/163 mm 27,5″
Giant Reign 1.5 LTD € 2,999 14.42 kg 160/160 mm 27,5″
Merida ONE-SIXTY 5000 € 3,899 14.12 kg 170/165 mm 27,5″
Propain Tyee CF Free € 4,029 13.52 kg 170/160 mm 27,5
Radon SWOOP 170 10.0 € 3,999 13.34 kg 170/170 mm 27,5″
Rose UNCLE JIMBO 3 € 3,799 13.48 kg 160/165 mm 27,5″
Specialized Enduro Comp 29 € 3,299 14.47 kg 160/155 mm 29″
Trek Remedy 9 Race Shop Limited € 3,699 14.24 kg 160/150 mm 27,5″
VOTEC VE ELITE 2017 € 3,999 13.67 kg 170/160 mm 27,5″
YT CAPRA CF PRO € 3,999 13.96 kg 170/170 mm 27,5″

Bergamont ENCORE 9.0 | 170/165 mm (f/r) | 14.29 kg | € 3,799

Canyon Strive CF 7.0 Race | 160/163 mm (f/r) | 13.42 kg | € 3,799

Giant Reign 1.5 LTD | 160/160 mm (f/r) | 14.42 kg | € 2,999

Merida ONE-SIXTY 5000 | 170/165 mm (f/r) | 14.12 kg | € 3,899

Propain Tyee CF Free | 170/160 mm (f/r) | 13.52 kg | € 4,029

Radon SWOOP 170 10.0 | 170/170 mm (f/r) | 13.34 kg | € 3,999

Rose UNCLE JIMBO 3 | 160/165 mm (f/r) | 13.48 kg | € 3,799

Specialized Enduro Comp 29 | 160/155 mm (f/r) | 14.47 kg | € 3,299

Trek Remedy 9 Race Shop Limited | 160/150 mm (f/r) | 14.24 kg | € 3,699

VOTEC VE ELITE 2017 | 170/160 mm (f/r) | 13.67 kg | € 3,999

YT CAPRA CF PRO | 170/170 mm (f/r) | 13.96 kg | € 3,999

Tops & Flops

Often small details can make a huge difference: seamless integration, first-class ergonomics and carefully selected parts. Easier said than done – here are some of the tops and flops from this grouptest.

Tops


Considered
The BikeYoke REVIVE is buttery smooth and super-compact, which means you can enjoy 160 mm of drop in a seat post with the same dimensions as most 150 mm models. Nice!
Powerful
Powerful brakes are essential on an enduro bike. The MAGURA MT7 are synonymous with consistency and performance.
Super-versatile!
No fewer than three of the test fleet sport the SRAM Eagle X01 drivetrain (ROSE, Radon, and VOTEC). It’s the absolute benchmark, with smooth shifting and an enormous gear range.
Well chosen
YT are wielding their biggest asset here – decision-making and know-how. This spec is faultless! The FOX 36 FLOAT Performance Elite is a highlight, filtering out bumps with sensitivity and delivering great ground feedback.

Flops


Sheep in Wolf’s clothing
These Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires on the Giant Reign are the lower spec Performance model. There’s a serious lack of grip, and they can’t cope in the wet – we’d definitely upgrade these.
Too narrow
Wide rims have multiple benefits – there’s less chance of burping and you can get more volume in the tire, increasing grip and comfort. Unfortunately, the skinny SUN ringlé Charger Expert AL simply don’t want you to indulge in these benefits. Look elsewhere for sufficient rim width.
Tight-arsed
The 100 mm of adjustment on the MERIDA’s dropper post is too limiting. Considering that many riders think 125 mm is inadequate, it’s obvious that 100 mm is a no-go!
Ugly finish
These welds might be practical, but damn, they’re not pretty.

The best enduro bike for under € 4,000

Can you get the perfect package for under €4,000? Can you have it all? Each bike in this test has gone to brilliantly diverse ways around design, kinematics, and geometry, but there were only five that nailed the overall package.

For a purebred race bike, the Canyon Strive CF is the ultimate choice! Not only is it a real piece of eye candy with a sleek frame and Canyon’s innovative Shape Shifter suspension concept, but its build spec has also been meticulously chosen to suit its purpose. The long frame and ultra-short chainstays ask for a skilled caress on the trails, however. The same expertise is needed on the Radon SWOOP 170 10.0 too, which is the lightest bike on test and unstoppable on the descents. Once you’ve swapped the tires, it’s time to get fast and loose – but be prepared to use some muscle to meet your line choices.

The YT CAPRA has already been crowned Buyer’s Tip once before, and it rocked up with a great total package and looked likely to take it this time around too. Thanks to its compact frame and progressive rear end, this is a seriously good-time bike. But as the competition gets increasingly fierce, the Trek Remedy 9 RSL has stuck its foot in the door. With an equally well-considered spec, a potent rear suspension, and the winning mix of agility and smoothness, the Remedy steals the Best Value crown.

Still, the entire test fleet stood in the shadow of one bike: the Specialized Enduro Comp 29. Unmatched in stability, speed, and balance, the Specialized manages to overcome its heavy weight to climb with an almost unrivalled eagerness and comfort. But this bike is by no means an ultra-luxe cruiseliner – the Enduro Comp 29 has agility en masse. With such a mean total package (despite certain price-point componentry), the Specialized is a well-deserving test winner.

All bikes in test: Bergamont ENCORE 9.0 | Canyon Strive CF 7.0 Race | Giant Reign 1.5 LTD | Merida ONE-SIXTY 5000 | Propain Tyee CF Free | Radon SWOOP 170 10.0 | Rose UNCLE JIMBO 3 | Specialized Enduro Comp 29 | Trek Remedy 9 Race Shop Limited | VOTEC VE ELITE 2017 | YT CAPRA CF PRO

Want to know more about trail bikes? We’ve already checked the most exciting trial bikes of 2017!

Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer

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